American Pie

How a Neapolitan street food became the most successful immigrant of all

Almost every American food—from egg foo yung to empanadas—is covered in the phone book under the generic heading “Restaurants.” Only pizza stands alone. Pizza, a Johnny-come-lately compared with such long-standing national favorites as the hamburger and hot dog, has secured a special place on the American table. Everybody likes pizza.Read more »

The First American Olympics

In 1904 the Olympics took place for only the third time in the modern era. The place was St. Louis, where a world’s fair was providing all the glamour and glitter and excitement anyone could ask. The Games, on the other hand, were something else.

The most arresting figure in the 1904 Olympic Games was a Cuban mailman named Félix Carvajal. Upon hearing that the third modern Olympic Games were to be held in the United States, Carvajal, although he knew nothing about track or field, decided he would represent Cuba in the marathon. He raised money by running around a public square in Havana, drawing a crowd, and then begging for cash to get him on a boat. Arriving in New Orleans, he promptly lost his stake in a dice game and had to make his way to St. Louis by hitchhiking and working at odd jobs along the way.Read more »

The Short, Dramatic Life Of The Steamboat Yellow Stone

She lived only six years, but it was a history-packed career

Old rivermen used to talk of the first time the steamboat Yellow Stone reached the fur-trading posts on the upper Missouri. Belching smoke, roaring like a cannon, and spurting steam into the air, she penetrated farther up the river than a boat under its own power had ever gone before. Her owner, John Jacob Astor, never saw her, although from his New York office he sent fleets of ships on trading missions from Liverpool to Canton.Read more »

An Empire Of Women

E.G. Lewis decided that a strong man could liberate American women and make money doing it

THE CELEBRATION began even before the opening gavel of the First American Woman’s League Convention. As the thousand arriving delegates made their way out Delmar Boulevard to University City, a new suburb of St. Louis, storefronts hung with flags and bunting greeted them. Trolleys, wagons, and even a railroad train made a kind of procession to a camp of gay circus tents, complete with a hospital. The delegates had come for what they believed would be a turning point in the lives of American women. Read more »

Meet Me In St. Lewis, Louie

A collection of little-known early-twentieth-century photographs of St. Louis recalls the author’s unfashionably happy childhood

Fireflies? Glowworms? Whatever the right name for them, in St. Louis we called them lightning bugs. On summer evenings we used to chase them across our lawns, which were not divided from one another, and collect them, when caught, in little medicine bottles. We had grandiose ideas of getting enough lightning bugs together to make lamps, but it never worked out like that because they died first. I remember that they had a not unpleasant smell when clutched in my sweaty hand, a smell like that of a dilute miner’s lamp, and their glow was greenish.Read more »

The Front Porch Campaign

While Bryan stumped up and down the land, McKinley let the voters come to his lawn in Canton—and they came

In 1896, the depression which had followed the Panic of ’93 was in its third year. Debt, business failure, unemployment, and labor unrest were spreading; to many, revolution seemed just a step away. This was the setting for the bitter presidential contest between Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan, and the great debate between the advocates of “sound money” and the supporters of the inflationary panacea, free silver.Read more »